We uncovered lots of fascinating pieces of Disney history while working on Ward Kimball’s biography—you know, the one that the Disney Company’s lawyers won’t allow you to see. Among the discoveries were film reels of Ward’s home movies, which I can report are a fair deal more interesting than the average person’s home movies.
We transferred those reels, and with permission, I’m sharing a rarely seen piece of movie footage shot by Ward. Tomorrow, it will be exactly 65 years since this film was recorded (April 4, 1948). In it, Ward and Walt Disney visit the home of Dick Jackson, a wealthy businessman who operated a scale-railroad in the backyard of his Beverly Hills home.
Kimball had been a close friend of Jackson’s for years, and often dropped by for steamups. A little over six years earlier—December 7, 1941, to be exact—as he was driving to Jackson’s for a steamup, he heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. The news unsettled him momentarily, but he “forgot it all with Jackson’s locomotive,” he wrote in his journal. Backyard railroading had the magical effect of allowing people to put the real world on pause, even if only for a few hours at a time.